BILLY SUTER chats to Cape Town drag legend Lilly Slaptsilli (the alter ego of Clive Allardyce), who was one half of iconic drag lip-sync duo, Mince, which toured nationally and globally for many years. The ageless Lilly is now flying solo and has also branched out into stand-up comedy. She is presenting “I’m Gagging” every Wednesday evening at 8pm at Craft Burger Bar, 63 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town (phne 021 424 0082). Note that good news for Durban fans is that the show will be at the Rhumbelow Theatre in October. Watch this space!
YOU RECENTLY MADE YOUR DEBUT DOING DRAG STAND-UP COMEDY, IN CAPE TOWN. I HEAR IT HAS BEEN A LIFELONG DREAM?
Like most actors, I tend to overthink my material and my ability. I have always been conscious of my funnybone, but was not sure if I was just ‘that funny girl at a braai’ or if I could really do stand-up.
As a kid, I was very aware of the Q&A segment that Carol Burnett used to do in her TV show ( give your age away, why don’t ya!) and the joy it brought to the studio audience and viewers. Only now, have I grown a pair and decided to do stand-up. I would have hated to have been an old queen with regrets.
WHERE AND WHEN DID YOU DEBUT YOUR STAND-UP SHOW, “I’M GAGGING”, AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE?
I decided to debut the show at Craft Burger Bar, a small and sexy venue in the CBD of Cape Town, in Buitengracht Street. It’s owned by Russell Shapiro, the original founder of On Broadway, where I performed for 18 years as part of lip-sync duo Mince, with Keiron Legacy.
I opened in mid-December and have never been more frightened in my life. Lilly had previously had the luxury of performing, essentially, to pre-recorded tracks as a lip-sync artist, knowing my performance needed to live up to the standard of the artist and track.
Stand-up is completely different. The delivery rests solely on my shoulders. It is immediate and the audience comprises stand-up followers, brutal about having a hearty laugh.
I have had several shows that I felt bombed, where I literally wept all the way home, begging Russell to just cancel the balance of my shows. I asked him to pretend they never happened, and apologised for wasting his time.
For me, the challenge has been to build an instant rapport with the audience, deliver original material whilst being approachable to all genders and persuasions – yet not to overwhelm folks with the fact that I am in a frock.
Joan Rivers once said: “You will be a failure trying to please everyone; your audience will find you!”
I’ve only done 11 shows to date and some audience members have returned more than five times. That is the finest compliment ever.
I want Lilly Slaptsilli to be a household name. I believe comedy is ageless and I believe the timing is perfect for Lilly. I truly think South Africa will embrace a sassy drag comic.
IS THERE A CHANCE “I’M GAGGING” WILL TOUR?
Absolutely! I am excited for the nation to get to love and enjoy the humour of Lilly Slaptsilli. This is her moment. She has paid her school fees.
OTHER NEWS OR PLANS?
I am working on a YouTube series, due for release in August, which will see Lilly interview influencers, sports personalities, celebrities and the average Joe, while giving them a drag makeover ending in a chair-spin reveal.
I think everyone would fancy to see themselves in drag at least once in their lives.
LET’S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING FOR LILLY – WHEN, WHERE AND WHY DID MINCE FORM AND WHAT WERE THREE HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE DUO?
In 1995, I, Clive Allardyce, was commissioned by David Kramer to direct a drag show to fill a Sunday night gap over the two-month festive season at the Pump House at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.
Mince became the working title with the cast made up of two local drag artists. The withdrawal of one performer two weeks prior to opening night left me little option but to take to the stage as Lilly Slaptsilli.
Partnering with Kieron Legacy, Mince was an instant success. The show ran to capacity houses for two years until the venue was sold to Planet Hollywood.
Mince moved to the newly established On Broadway Supper Theatre in 1997 for an additional 16 years as the theatre’s resident act.
Mince performed throughout South Africa and abroad, including in Budapest and the Seychelles. The duo had celebrated appearances on Carte Blanche, Front Row, Top Billing, Entertainment Africa, Die Casper Rasper Show and more.
HOW LONG WERE YOU PART OF THE FAMOUS MINCE LIP-SYNC DUO WITH KEIRON LEGACY? AND WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO KEIRON?
Mince performed together as the resident act at Cape Town’s On Broadway every Sunday and Tuesday for 1 728 shows non-stop, excluding tours and corporate gigs. Keiron Legacy has now become quite the business woman, working for a high-end solutions company, running her own division.
HOW LONG HAS LILLY SLAPSTILLI BEEN SOLO?
Lilly has been solo since 2015. Her strength is comedy and I felt that she had a few more years left in her lashes.
Mince split after On Broadway closed. It was really difficult to find a venue that lived up to the standard that theatre had set. We tried a few options, but the bar (tab) was set so high it always led to disappointment.
We found that our audience were so protective over where we performed that dropping our standards for a new or start-up venue would be short-changing our following.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR SOLO SHOW, ‘SHENANIGANS’, HOW FAR AFIELD IT HAS BEEN PERFORMED, WHEN FIRST PERFORMED, AND REACTIONS TO IT.
Shenanigans is a camp, comedic romp for audiences of all sexualities and perversions. Lilly Slaptsilli serves up lashing of laughter, music and mischief, tackling a dozen or more of your favourite musical icons
The show is a celebration of female vocalists from around the world. Another strong aspect of the production are the hilarious video skits played during costume changes.
Expect a frisky mix of humour, dance, music and fashion – with an insider wink on socio-political pop culture.
Performing in a small, newly established supper venue/theatre in Cape Town in 2015 was an experiment for both parties. The first three performances were scary, being alone and used to having longer garment change time, and the show ran way too long.
Since then it has been trimmed, tuned and tightened up, and has received outstanding reviews and reactions.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SONGS AND ARTISTS YOU USE IN YOUR SOLO SHOW – AND WHAT SORT OF SURPRISES ARE IN IT?
Lilly loves to spoof current artists like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, and old classics like Fever ( I Want a Beaver). Lilly has extended her live stand-up comedy routine to wrap up Act One and the audience members who think that lip-sync is a lesser art than singing live are surprised and delighted by this add-on.
YOU FIRST BROUGHT “SHENANIGANS” TO DURBAN (WELL, KLOOF, ACTUALLY) LAST JUNE, WHEN IT RAN AT THE RHUMBELOW THEATRE AT TINA’S HOTEL. WHY THE DURBAN VISIT?
Durban has always had the best audience ever. We performed all versions of Mince over many years, mainly at the now-defunct Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest and Lango’s in Durban North.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DRAG ABOUT DRAG? AND WHAT ARE THE PLEASURES AND ADVANTAGES?
The ‘frock circus’ of it all is my worst. The constant maintenance of costumes, shoes (size 11) and wigs, and the packin,g unpacking, folding, steaming… blah blah, braaaak.
The pros? I am addicted to watching the audience reaction, laughing and being entertained. The ability to wash this madness off and not be noticed by that very same audience the next day is an advantage… anonymity.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A FEMALE IMPERSONATOR DOING LIP-SYNC? ALSO, WHERE AND WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST GIG – AND WHAT DO YOU RECALL OF IT?
I saw a documentary on Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and the back-story and transformation of the actors from male to female was mesmerising to me.
When David Kramer asked me to produce the drag show at his venue The Pump House less than a year later, and I had to also star, I became so nervous that I threw up before and during the show backstage.
I recall forgetting to put my boobs in. I also recall thinking that if I changed the side path to a middle path on my wig no one would notice it was the same wig (little did I know that halfway through the song the wig would return to its original state)
It’s so easy to recall the experience as I have this catastrophe on VHS tape (ok, ok, maybe Beta.)
BY DAY YOU ARE CLIVE …DOING WHAT OVER THE YEARS? AND HOW DIFFERENT ARE CLIVE AND LILLY?
After matric, Clive, studied fashion design at Cape Technikon whilst assisting on the third-year graduation fashion show.
He found an instant passion for show choreography and production, and this included writing and directing cabarets for Irit Noble and Duck Chowles, as well as producing the well-received Rock Circus with a star-studded cast including Wendy Oldfield, Vicky Sampson and Duncan Faure.
Clive has never stopped producing fashion shows and events with his business, Showlab Production House, specialising in fashion shows, industrial theatre, brand launches and lifestyle events.
Clive is polite and Lilly is sassy. Clive loves being a boy and Lilly celebrates being a girl.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST EMBARRASSING OR OTHERWISE MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN THE PUBLIC EYE THAT LILLY HAS EXPERIENCED?
During one performance a giant cockroach crawled out from under my wig down my forehead. Anyone who knows me will know that encountering a creature with more than four legs is my biggest fear.
I originally thought it was beads of sweat – apparently I squinted when noticing the flicking of the cockroach feelers, snapped it off my forehead and gently crunched it to death in my hand without missing a beat. I have no recall except paralytic fear.
Oh, and then there was a time my mic got caught in my Tina Turner wig. Please don’t make me relive that. I am still in therapy and on Schedule 6 medication.
WHAT MAKES LILLY DIFFERENT TO OTHER DRAG ACTS? AND IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO FURTHER WITH HER GOING FORWARD?
I think Lilly is a really versatile actor, pushing the boundaries of lip-synch with numbers like Ella Fitzgerald’s live version of How High the Moon with seven minutes of scatting. She also has her magician act and makes use of puppetry.
My biggest dream is to have a TV sketch comedy show, something like Inside Amy Schumer, Little Britain and Katharine Tate.
HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED HECKLERS OR OTHER ABUSE OF ANY SORT WHILE IN DRAG… AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE THAT, IF SO?
During a corporate show for a very straight, male-only audience, some very drunk guy ran towards the stage clearly wanting to join me.
I pounded him with the metal base of my mic stand, in his chest, and he fell back and miraculously slumped in the only empty chair in the front row. There he remained for the balance of the show…and long after.
I think I might have killed him. If I did, please let me provide the authorities with an already-taken, fabulous mugshot photo.
WHICH OF YOUR MANY LIP-SYNC PERFORMANCES OVER THE YEARS HAS BEEN A FAVOURITE FOR YOU – AND WHY?
Whoopi Goldberg/ Pointer Sisters medley from Sister Act, where I use two puppets as backing vocalists. I know that it is totally original to me.
I realised the first time I performed it that the backing vocalists were so prominent (hence the creation of the puppets). I still perform it and it seems timeless.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON TV’S “RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE” AND RUPAUL HIMSELF?
I love the show and have learnt so much from the different genres of drag from coast to coast in the US. RuPaul has been a force in the business and opened up this medium to popular culture… sashay you stay. can I get an Amen up in here.
I have a show in the pipeline called U-Hauls Drag Face.
HOW MUCH DO YOU ESTIMATE YOU HAVE SPENT ON WIGS, OUTFITS , MAKEUP AND ACCESSORIES OVER THE YEARS? AND YOU HAD GOOD SPONSORSHIP AT ONE TIME, WITH MINCE, CORRECT?
A decent wig can range between R2 000 and R 6 000, and I own 54 of them. I am a little obsessed with a good ‘pruik’.
I import my giant shoes from the UK… and the cost would probably be the same as buying a small car.
The Nest in Gauteng has been the most loyal sponsor ever. Almost 20 years of supplying me with the Kryolan theatre brand of make-up. I have never abused their sponsorship and am so loyal to the brand.
IS THERE ANY ONE LILLY ITEM OF CLOTHING OR ACCESSORY THAT IS SPECIAL IN ANY WAY?
The late Mo Pithey, woman’s editor at The Argu,s handmade the puppets for my Sister Act number. Every time I slip them on I think of her. She was like my
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS’?
My. Hilarious. Solo. Drag. Show.
WHAT THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTE NO-NOS?
Unshaved arms, unshaven chest, unshaven pits and nostril hair.
YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE DRAG QUEEN?
Jinx Monsoon. Just Google her. Beyond talented.
WHAT IS THE FIRST RULE OF DRAG?
Only drink after you’ve performed.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE’?
Glitter, lip-gloss, baby oil, diamante… and spare ribs.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY FIVE PEOPLE TO DINNER WHO WOULD THEY BE – AND WHO WOULD YOU INVITE THEM?
Oprah Winfrey (because that’s what they all say). Vicar of Dibley’s Dawn French (I literally dream of meeting her and she is the funniest chick on the planet). Kurt Wild (porn star). Kylie Jenner (simply to get a close-up look at money well spent) and James Small (to talk about what really happens in a loose scrum).
THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER HAD?
With legs like that you should walk on your hands.
AND THE WORST?
With legs like that you should walk on your hands.
WHAT ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS MIGHT YOU HAVE CONSIDERED – AND WHY?
A director of film, television and music videos… because they could do with some help.
WHAT IS THE MOST PAINFUL THING YOU HAVE ENDURED?
When the head of my dickey-bird rubs against the seam of my tuck panty in the first number of the show and I know I have an entire show to do before I can unleash the beast.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
My granny, my mom, my hair, my unconsciousness and The Carol Burnett Show.
THE MOST FRIGHTENING THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
Definitely that cockroach crawling down my forehead while on stage.
ANY OTHER NEWS OR COMMENTS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO MENTION?
I have no idea how to get more Instagram followers @lillyslaptsilli
WHAT WOULD LILLY LIKE ENSCRIBED ON HER TOMBSTONE?
WIN A TICKETS FOR EIGHT PEOPLE TO ATTEND THE OPENING NIGHT PERFORMANCE OF ‘SHENANIGANS” ON FEBRUARY 22.
To put yourself in line to win tickets for eight people to attend the 8pm Friday, February 22, performance of Lilly Slaptsilli’s hilarious solo lip-sync show, “Shenanigans”, at the Umbilo branch of the Rhumblow Theatre, in Cunningham Road, Umbilo, you simply have to be a follower of my site. At no cost.
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